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Corn ethanol boosted due to production in Brazil

Brazil’s corn ethanol sector booms on an increase of production and investments, according to a Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The UNEM forecasts the country to produce about 2.5 billion liters of corn-based ethanol in the 2020-21 marketing year.

Currently, there are 16 corn ethanol plants in Brazil and at least four are corn-only plants, while the rest are flex plants that produce ethanol from both sugarcane and corn.

Due to plentiful and generally cheap corn supplies in Brazil, at least seven other corn-based ethanol plants in the planning, development to construction stage, which are expected to come online in the next two years according to the USDA.

Brazil’s corn ethanol production could total 5.5 billion liters per year, consuming 13 million tons of corn annually, if all ongoing ethanol plant construction projects are completed. The plants are slated to begin operations in 2021 or 2022.

In 2019, the USDA estimates Brazil produced 37.38 billion liters of ethanol, 96% of which came from sugarcane. It produced 1.33 billion liters in 2019 but the USDA anticipates it to a total of 8 billion liters by 2028.

While utilizing corn is a small-but-growing fraction of the Brazilian ethanol industry it is expected to grow quickly over the next decade.

“The sector’s investors hope this can become an important part of Brazil’s biofuels equation, as the country’s consumption of ethanol is expected to grow,” the USDA said.

The Brazilian ethanol perspective for 2020

Last month the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) said that Brazil’s ethanol production is expected to drop 16% as sugar-based ethanol plants divert toward sugar production.

Total ethanol production is estimated at 31.35 billion liters, down from 37.38 billion liters in 2019. Consumption for use as fuel is estimated at 27.68 billion liters, a decrease of 18% from the previous year. The FAS said this is due to social distancing measures and the economic downturn related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Oil palm biofuel biodiesel in tubes.

Palm oil: the biofuel of the future?

Biodiesel based on palm oil stands out among others. It has a high cetane number and high oxidation stability, which makes the product stable for more than six months.

Among the major issues and current problems facing the world are the high levels of pollution in large cities and the increase in acid rain, both derived from the indiscriminate and poorly planned use of fossil fuels for over a hundred years. Today, world oil reserves are scarce and its price is increasing.

These reasons have led to the search for fuels derived from renewable natural sources and with low environmental impact, among which those obtained using chemically transformed vegetable oils (methyl esters) as raw materials.

This makes palm oil and its derivatives an alternative as fuel and represents an opportunity for the country’s palm oil sector. It will make it possible to increase the internal consumption of it in each country and give it greater added value.

Studies and experiences from around the world show that as palm oil is a vegetable oil it is renewable and constitutes a favorable alternative to be used as fuel. Vegetable oils contain large amounts of carbon, which is one of the most important components of fuel.

Palm oil advances as a biofuel

Indonesia, which is the world’s largest exporter of this product, plans to finish research into biodiesel containing 40% palm oil by November

The country will implement the mandatory use of biodiesel containing 40% palm oil, known as B40, in July 2021 as it seeks to increase domestic use while slashing regular diesel imports.

The country previously scheduled a road test in April for B40, but that was delayed because of the coronavirus outbreak. The pandemic has also forced the research department to modify its testing methods.

They currently mandate biodiesel containing 30% of palm oil’s fatty acid methyl ester (FAME), the highest palm-based mix for biodiesel in the world.

Indonesia is testing two different formulations for the B40 fuel, one containing 40% of FAME, and the other containing a mix of 30% of FAME and 10% of a purer form of FAME, which has improved the quality needed in the fuel.

The fuels are tested on engines of passenger cars running for 1,000 hours.